Politics Clouds Folks' Views on COVID Rules, Global Survey Confirms

TUESDAY, Jan. 18, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- People's political views do affect their opinions about COVID-19 policies, a new study confirms, but researchers also found that advice from trusted experts can override those political biases.

"These findings underscore how important it is to have communications come from scientific sources that are not seen as political and to keep prominent politicians out of the spotlight of crisis communication," study co-author Alexandra Flores said in a University of Colorado at Boulder news release.

Flores, a PhD student in psychology and neuroscience, was motivated by the polarization of public opinion seen around the world regarding the ongoing pandemic.

In late 2020, she and her colleagues surveyed 13,000 people in seven countries: the United States, Brazil, Israel, Italy, Sweden, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

Participants were asked their opinions about two COVID-19 pandemic-management proposals that were based on real plans under consideration. The plans included measures such as social distancing, workplace regulations, contact tracing and travel restrictions.

One plan had more severe restrictions and prioritized keeping COVID-19 case numbers down, while the other plan emphasized "recovery of the economy as much as possible while preventing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases."

Participants were told the policies were supported either by liberal elites, conservative elites, a bipartisan coalition or nonpartisan scientific experts.

In all of the countries, liberal and conservative respondents were significantly more likely to support a policy when they were told that elites from their party endorsed it.

However, a policy earned the most support when respondents were told it was supported by bipartisan coalitions or neutral experts.

The same results were found in a separate experiment that was conducted only in the United States. In that one, respondents were asked their opinion about two international vaccine distribution plans: one with an America-first strategy and another with a more global approach.

The study was published Jan. 18 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This study demonstrates that when it comes to COVID-19, as with other contemporary issues, people are much more swayed by who the policy represents than what the policy actually is," said study co-author Leaf Van Boven, a professor of psychology and neuroscience.

"It also shows that people trust and like experts more than politicians -- even those from their own party," Van Boven said in the release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.

SOURCE: University of Colorado at Boulder, news release, Jan. 13, 2022

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